Tag Archives: Frank Black

Black Francis

I like people who get excited about things. Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black, a.k.a. Charles Thompson, a.k.a. former frontman of The Pixies) gets passionately obsessed about weird things like fringe Dutch musicians. To paraphrase, “Is he weird, is he white, is he promised to the night?” Yes? Bonus.

In the last year Black Francis has released two EPs/short LPs, Bluefinger and SVN FNGRS. I was never a big fan of the Frank Black (and the Catholics) solo stuff, but these new discs more than deserve the old moniker. They rock like nothing I’ve heard of his since The Pixies, and the live show was impeccable.

Bluefinger is a theme album, based on or at least inspired by the drug-crazed life and times of Herman Brood. The disc contains a cover of You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It (by Herman Brood and His Wild Romance), in which you can hear coked-up pounding anguish that makes it such a good song for Black Francis. You can hear how it would influence him. Sort of like, if you listen real hard to Nirvana, it makes so much sense that Kurt Cobain‘s first band was a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band.

Listen to Threshold Apprehension from Bluefinger and When They Come to Murder Me from SVN FNGRS on his MySpace, but know neither song is as intense as the overall vibe of the discs.

But if I had to choose, I’d pick SVN FNGRS (vowels are so uncool) for sure. The incisively short songs vamp (or is it harp?) on those good ol’ bloody themes: birth, sex, battle, death. Watch the video for the song I Sent Away. The album’s title comes from the seven-fingered-and-toed Cúchulainn, a mythological hero from Irish folklore “known for his terrifying battle frenzy or ríastrad, in which he becomes an unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe.” Sounds like the transformation that occurs when pasty, bald (and blue suede shod) Charles Thompson rips into a two-minute song as Black Francis.

I saw Black Francis with a bass player and drummer perform almost every song from both discs at The Slowdown in Omaha, Nebraska. The jukebox, the beers, the size (capacity 470!), the jaw-dropping bookings, the overall aesthetic … everything’s perfect in that bar/venue. And Charles commented more than once on how great the club is for performers.

The Slowdown’s excellence comes from the fact that it was created by owner/operators who are musicians themselves–folks from Omaha’s own Saddle Creek Records (Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, Cursive, et al.).

I highly recommend The Slowdown … and so do others. It was named Esquire’s Club of the Year.

Getting back to the obsessions of Black Francis. He has recorded songs to accompany the 1915 film Der Golem, which I think will be released as another album soon. This is the third film I know him to sing about, joining the ranks of Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou.

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Filed under Concerts, Music Videos, Shows

Black Francis

Oooooooh we are such lucky kids! Today we can buy Svn Fngrs, the new seven-song mini LP from Black Francis.

Black Francis is Frank Black, who I certainly never loved as a solo artist (unless he was covering Pixies songs). However, these new tunes are kick-ass low-fi, as good as you could want ’em to be.

BF/FB’s life calling was, of course, to be the Pixies‘ genius frontman. I don’t have the time right now to blog poetic about the Pixies, but suffice it to say they’re my favorite. Dig it! Also dig the 33 1/3 book about Doolittle.

You can stream a couple of Black Francis songs on his site or download them for free if you log in to MySpace.

Frank himself says, of the new tracks, “… let’s just say the theme revolves around a lot of NASTY sex, NASTIER death, and beautifully strange birth.”

You can watch the video for one of the songs, I Sent Away, on YouTube. This song, as well as the others I’ve heard, sound just exactly like what you want to hear when you turn on your local college radio station. Yea!

No U.S. tour dates yet. I’ll stay vigilant for such an announcement.

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The Polyphonic Spree

The Polyphonic Spree‘s new video Crawl is worth a watch. It’s an intimate look at the band and frontman Tim DeLaughter, who has more charisma in his little finger than [insert lame comparison into this cliché here].

Watching Tim from his Tripping Daisy days (I cannot stress enough that the albums I Am an Elastic Firecracker and Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb are your listening homework if you don’t know them already but are even remotely into the Spree or The Flaming Lips) through The Beginning Stages of… and into worldwide success with the Spree, you can’t help but sense that he consistently does the dangerous work of exposing his soul to the world. That must be necessary to make music so expansive and touching. He always projects genuine elation, but the elation seemingly must be ripped out of (his) pain and (our) apathy to be sustained. I think this makes him one of the hardest working men in music.

At Tripping Daisy and Spree shows, Tim always seems to be standing on the monitors, surrounded by something. Sometimes it’s props like bubbles or plastic bits from a fake snow machine. But sometimes it’s light doing interesting things in concert with the sound, such as a flickering fluorescent bulb or a sunbeam breaking through the dreary clouds during a raucous version of It’s the Sun (both shows in Denton, Texas, at two very different venues).

I find the Spree’s recordings difficult to listen to since I know how bitchin’ they are live. In fact, it’s safe to say I like the Spree best at their margins, out of the studio doin’ their own funky thing. At the end of one show, they allowed the harpist time to perform a full song solo, and it was truly fulfilling in a basic sort of way, like eating bread. The improv moments during shows are some of the most fun bits, like when Tim broke spontaneously into a Tripping Daisy chorus while the rest of the band waited patiently. And their covers are fierce. Grab Nirvana’s Lithium, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s LHCB, and Wig in a Box here at Deaf Indie Elephants. You can buy covers of Lithium, Tripping Daisy’s Sonic Bloom, and The Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way on the EP Wait. And I always love a little Ride Captain Ride.

Side note about the rockin‘ movie (and soundtrack) Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The Spree’s cover of Wig in a Box appears on a benefit album of the same name, along with other covers (by Bob Mould, The Breeders, Frank Black, Sleater-Kinney, Spoon, Ben Folds, and voice by Stephen Colbert long before I knew who he was) of Hedwig songs such as Rufus Wainwright’s pleasant rendition of The Origin of Love.

Tim does an interview with You Ain’t No Picasso, where he talks about his life philosophy and also a subject dear to my heart, albums: “I love making albums. We are in a world of singles and more people are interested in picking little jewels off the record. But for me as an artist, to have my creative worth and feel worthy, it’s got to be more of a concept. It’s got to work all together as one unit in one listen.” And for me as a listener, I can’t grow love for artists or their bodies of work via singles or mp3s on shuffle. Only albums will do.

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Filed under Covers, DVD, Music Videos